Making sense of autism: Progressive engagement with science among parents of young, recently diagnosed autistic children

Noah Weeth Feinstein

This exploratory study examines the significance of science to parents whose children were recently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. It asks: (1) In what manner did science emerge in parents’ concerns and resources as they attempted to understand and advocate for their children? (2) Did some parents engage with science in a qualitatively deeper or more intense manner? Using longitudinal data from interviews and a novel data collection strategy called engagement mapping, it shows that parents asked questions and used resources that were strongly associated with science, but these were vastly outnumbered by “near-science” concerns and resources that mingled meanings from science and daily life. Several parents in the study wove together concerns and resources in an iterative pattern referred to here as progressive engagement with science.

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